Saturday, November 06, 2004

on fantasy and mystery…

From the Introduction of Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow, the following was written by Ray Bradbury (July 1st, 1951):

… Life, to the believer or the agnostic, is a pretty wonderful affair. I mean wonderful in the sense of true wonder, awful in the sense of awe, stressing the im in impossible.. It is truly a miracle that we are all here to sleep, to rise, to down quick breakfasts and run for trains and be on time or late, as Fate decides.

A child, realizing this, finds something magnificent in the whorls on his fingertips. As adults, we soon transfer our attentions from our hands to our bodies to other people's bodies and circumstances and sooner or later we fall in love and that is a pretty strange business, too, another wonderful, awful, sometimes unbelievable business. But no matter how old we get there should always be that sense of living on the margin of impossibility… Some people are frightened by it, some are elated, but I believe the sense of the impossible can be used to sharpen our senses to what we are doing and where, if anywhere, we are going. We have all had moments such as The First Day I Discovered I Was Really Alive, at the age of ten. Or The First Day I Finally Realized That Someday I Must Die, at the age of fifteen. We have all walked in meadows on certain afternoons and suddenly been so keenly aware of living that we have felt a very real and deep gratitude for this chance to live. We have seen sunsets so beautiful that there is no talking of them, caused by a million interactions of events in the atmosphere, in the light, in the dust particles, and in the hidden theatre of the mind. We have all felt ourselves participants of a precious privilege given to us by God, of what ever shape or size you prefer, on the best birthday of all, the day each of us was born.

True, the greater part of life is a real and nasty business, with more failures than successes, more illness than health. Many of us quit early and threaten to drop out of the game. But give us another afternoon in a field, or a certain rain in the air outside the office window, or an hour of night when we wake to find the house asleep in the moonlight, surrounded by our families, and we are set to go on again. An occasional breather, a refresher, a bit of luck, a happy meeting, can make us cling once more to this soiled small bit of existence with a ferocity that borders on and surpasses insanity. Gripe as we may, criticize as we must, when the hour comes to leave the stage, when our particular scene ends and the curtain is dropping, most of us regret that we can't stay on for at least another act.

… Scientists freely admit that they don't really know what electricity or gravity are, or why light rays travel as fast as they do, or what color is or what keeps the atom together or why the sun really shines. In all probability they won't ever know, for there is a certain place in any discussion of any one thing in existence where knowledge ends and the Great Vacuum extends out into infinity. We haven't the faintest idea how order is kept in the womb and why, time after time, with amazing persistence and regularity, cells form through mammalian, and even fishlike stages, to form eyes, lips, ears, hands, fingernails, a human being. These seem to be Unknowables. We can theorize, check reactions against each other, and thus build a fairly solvent, agreeable civilization, one that won't fly apart too suddenly, we hope. But we live by approximations and shadows of reality. We don't even know the real Why that makes water boil at a certain temperature. Luckily, we have accumulated a vast storehouse of knowledge as to How things occur. With what few pitiful sense organs we have, and the brains given us, we have "made do." But the world and the universe are still a fantasy and a mystery.

… The fact is that as we get older the wonders and awes seem to fade a trifle. All of us work ourselves into our own little phonograph record existence, play the same tune each day, with perhaps a fox trot arrangement on Saturday and a hymnal of same on Sunday. This is the safe, sane, sure little path we must all take if we are to live on this world. In habit there is comfort, in routine there is satisfaction. Only occasionally, as years pass, do the sunsets, the awes, wonders, and beauties break through our shells. So, now and then, we must remind ourselves of the wondrous and the delightful…

posted by Jennifer at 11/06/2004 07:09:00 AM

Blogger The Kraken said...

I think you've run old Ray off with your long-windedness this time, dear. To be honest, you almost ran me off, too...

11/12/2004 06:03:00 AM  

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